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NHS must learn to love smart IV pumps to avoid drug errors

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Hospitals must start using “smart” intravenous (IV) infusion technology to its full potential if they are to prevent dangerous drug errors, University of Manchester researchers have found.

‘Smart pumps’-  which automatically calculate the dose and rate of different drugs before they are pumped into a vein  - prevent potentially fatal errors by stopping the administration of the wrong rate.

But according to the study published in BMJ Open Quality, though the technology probably saved the lives of 110 people in two Trusts over a year, it has largely failed to be adopted by hospitals.

Though many IV pumps used in hospitals have a smart capability, most trusts do not utilise the functionality because they are difficult to configure and maintain.

Smart pumps are usually configured by a pharmacist and checked by a consultant or senior nurse. Conventional pumps, however, are set by ward staff who calculate and input infusion rates themselves - increasing the risk of drug errors.

The risks are illustrated by previous work from the Manchester team, who demonstrated that 1 in 10 IV drug administrations are associated with an error, and up to 1 in 10 of those were associated with harm.

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Source: University of Manchester, 1 August 2022

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